Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 526, July 5, 2009

"There are aliens among us."

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Rebooting our System
by Donald Meinshausen

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

We are facing some big problems now. Somehow we have installed some big programs on our system that are not working. They are taking up too much of our memory or even distorting it. It usually starts like this. Spam appears on our screen in nice graphics, cleverly written bearing the names of institutions that we trust promising free stuff. Sometimes they want us to answer lots of questions. We understand that as necessary marketing. So we unwittingly install it. We find the messages then are empty promises, half-truths and lies. Then there's the big trouble.

Maybe it was a design flaw unseen by those who wrote the code. Some say it might even have been designed to work that way. I don't think that because the gates are open you blame Gates. The problem is much older than that. There are people who will examine any code to find a weak spot and exploit it.

At first we have an excitement of the new application. Later we find out that maybe they know too much about us for our comfort. What is worse is those programs and games require so much expense and memory to run that we find it difficult if not impossible to run the programs we value or even those we depend on to make a living. Then we can find out our own system is being taken away from us and made into a bot of someone we do not even know. It does not even respond to us. Then there are the malicious viruses that seem to be indistinguishable from these who just want to hurt over our programs and distort our memory. Big, badly designed systems breed viruses somehow. Systems do crash this way.

I can easily deal with some silly messages; advertising, propaganda and such these are easily ignored and deleted. That's freedom of speech; but takeovers? No way. Don't these people understand that we users of this once valid and exciting system are not and never have been a stupid machine awaiting their commands? They are the servers, not us! We are rather individuals in many, many niches and wanting to be largely left alone. This boorish, invasive activity of theirs will only lead to us hacking at their system and even cracking! We demand to be free of these assaults. The sanctity of our information systems is important for our intellectual, cultural and even personal survival and should be protected and will be by its users. There is no emerging class so powerful when it comes to changing or destroying the system than the technorati. And we are all learning these processes to serve processes to those who would process against us.

Installing defense systems against these attacks is a growing expense and consumes much memory. Recognition programs and anti-virus routines can be turned against their user. Sweeps can destroy good information. We have also become suspicious of even honest offerings, free offers, legitimate bargains and surveys. This is bringing to a sad end the early days of trust and openness.

We installed this system to improve communications, lower the costs of commerce and to meet our information needs and the system was the best in the world at first. Since we in America are the trendsetters we should be careful of our role. Do we want thieving commerce, inane promises and wasteful programs that destroy systems to become emblematic of our leadership and iconography?

Consumers are happy to use any software that suits their need, even from providers that have been problematic such as Dell, as long as they become responsive to their customers. So it's not too late for these "leaders" to reform. And we will give loyalty and revenue to those that listen to complaints and act on them. People who complain on blogs can be an ally in exposing errors, waste and bad customer service in their system.

The bloggers can also be their biggest headache and cause loss of market share by venting in their blogs about the hidden costs, waste of time, and violations of privacy in the offending programs. Most damagingly the bloggers can hype the better systems in the marketplace. They can, on the other hand, provide valuable suggestions, test prototypes, give plugs and endorsements and be an asset. You can't buy loyalty like that or even good publicity.

But do these bureaucratic system managers who burden us listen? No, as the system gets worse we are even more besieged by even more of these "free" offers that range from dubious to dangerous. Programs are designed with those few who have large needs and burden all others with their requirements. Our systems can't handle all the ones the system gave us years ago. And most of them have been proven over long experience to work badly. The programs corrupt easily and are written with such long and confusing language that needs so many patches. There is even a line of thinking that these programs are designed so badly so that we will continuously need their updates and expensive experts just to explain how we can get around these things. What about a routine that eliminates programs that don't work? It could be at first embarrassing but would be a great help.

What is astounding is that much better programs are available to deal with all types of needs and put together by world-recognized experts. They are cheaper, take less memory, more effective and have been field tested all over the world. They practically run themselves. These are on the shelf in the marketplace and have been for many years. The one big size fits all for all time mentality of the current system will not work indefinitely and has to stop before it stops progress. No more top down system designs.

One reason that Google has done better than Yahoo is that Yahoo wants to take you where Yahoo wants to go and Google wants to take you where you want to go. The more options for the user in a system the more bright people you will attract and the brighter the users of your system will become. The system also becomes brighter as well. Google does this and so do other innovative companies and we become not frightened of their bigness and revenues. Google also keeps prices low for its advertisers and that attracts loyalty and discourages competition. Such innovation and customer service and low costs is not what is happening now with the current system operation

Remember when this system was young. It was a large commanding place with limited access. It was an institution designed for a few information gatherers and decision makers only. It had ramps leading up to them since the machine was designed to be on a higher level to show its elevated status and to hide and give a place for the elaborate connections underneath. Before that in a simpler time it was primitive. Without technology, each would with great efforts had to find his own way to obtain and process information. Some seem to be returning to a decentralizing direction while still incorporating the newer processes.

There was also a class of priests who ran the system that even had its own costume and spoke a jargon all its own. It read from the machine's entrails the prophecies that the leaders would unquestioningly follow. And at first it was shrouded in secrecy. Now there is a growing end to secrecy as more learn how to use it.

Now the new network has grown diverse and informal. Everyone now can be connected. Therefore people can have new paths that incorporate new openness that the tech gives it. That is as long as they can break free from the system.

The system has grown so large that it becomes contradictory in what it does. It is now hurting more than helping. It's good to see that we have colored icons, contrasts and a greater wealth of information and so much diversity in it. But there is also the threat of a 1984 society. Was the internet invented to discover who should be interned and net them? Still we must preserve the massive information access we have today. No one really wants to go back to primitive times when information was not accessible and guarded by the few.

But our system is being overrun with programs that are written to include those who do not want to be part of them. It is based on obsolete code and concepts. Simple, many and small decentralized networks work better as information becomes greater and more complex. After all who knows what the future will be so autonomous experimentation is in order. Better networks are built on platforms that are accessible and adaptable. They are based on simple easier to understand code that we agree to use. They enable people to help themselves based on their own needs. Rather than coming from one big source it should be able to come from all users. Open, free collaboration rather than secrecy means that the customer is involved and helps the system rather than being alienated or hostile. A good system asks us to give value to it as we get value from it in free exchange. It also understands that competition is necessary to keep it honest and efficient. It must give us more value at an ever-decreasing price. More importantly a good system maintains value. Historically the value increases while cost decreases. It should in the end require less and less from each user to keep each application running. "Small is the next big" as is said in hot new book on the information revolution;" What would Goggle Do?"

The people who write the predatory programs are still using focus groups rather than reading the right blogs. These are the ones that not only complain but also point out options that have worked in the marketplace. If the system does not listen their customers will encourage competition. If the system listens to their consumers everyone will start winning.

Of course things do seem to be in a complete state of flux or even revolution and may always be that way. Some experts are maintaining that even the concepts of intellectual property are disappearing. They also say we need a new operating system, more based on freedom as well as a new management style. Some go further and say its better that we have free programs that get away from big systems. Progress will happen when we can all freely work on and share the same programs. Some say that such ideas have always worked in this field as collaboration works better than ownership. I am not sure but I am OK with it and this area is growing in some regions. I do acknowledge our intellectual debt to these decentralist radical developers who have 60's values. No wonder they don't dare drug test these guys.

So there is this conflict among us oppressed users between those who think that as long we get rid of unnecessary programs the system can be saved and return to the original deign of the operating system versus those who want to go to leave the current providers of this predatory software completely and go to a more open system where traditional ways and intellectual property rights are not so respected. Both think that the owners and management of those currently running the system is incompetent and/or evil.

We also can fight the new evil programs by constantly upgrading the identification of this invasion and the software necessary to fight it. How is a very hard question to answer because of the resources this can require. The answer will be a combination of saving the system, identifying and fighting invasions as well as trying to replace it and making this new region more difficult to capture. As long as I can get out of a system without much trouble and there are other systems that I can get into easily this is our best option. We need healthy competition, even among ourselves. We need more options to what we have now. People have always taken programs and adapted them for their own use. Some businesses are doing very well using these approaches with an emphasis on being customer wish driven. That can be seen as a sign that it's a good application unless it becomes too bothersome.

Maybe we are having all these problems because of all the new users and the increase in technology. Maybe we have to have differing value systems within the system and a data base access that accommodate new users coming from so many different cultures and values. The market with its innovations and decentralizing cultures has always provided answers. I just can't give a better answer yet.

And now the system in order to implement even more programs wants to put in a power boost that could short circuit everyone. This could destroy all the programs, including our memory and the operating system. I'm going to press charges. This is battery. We are going to all have to put in more surge protectors. This stimulus package is crazy.

This is all getting so complicated. I'm tired of talking about bloated and avaricious government. When will all this stupidity and the taking away of our wealth and liberty end?

And I'm not even going to begin to discuss the problems I'm having with computers. I seem to have this fixation on parallel processing.

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